By Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Barges may sail down Mississippi by weekend

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Federal officials hope a massive effort to remove silt and sand deposits from the bed of the Mississippi River in Minnesota will have cleared a path for hundreds of tied-up barges carrying millions of dollars in cargo to resume their trips downstream over the weekend.

Commercial barge traffic has been choked off for weeks by large sediment deposits in the Mississippi left behind by flooding from heavy spring and summer showers. Combined with a late thaw, it’s been “a perfect storm for the industry,” delaying shipments up and down one of the nation’s most important waterways, said Steve Tapp of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is leading the cleanup.

The corps brought in four dredges to churn up enormous deposits near the southern Minnesota towns of Winona and Wabasha, suck them up and spit them onto boats to be carried to shore. With those areas clear, the four dredges and two additional crews will fan out to other sand-clogged stretches of the river to ease barges’ passage.

The delays have stretched dangerously close to grain harvesting season, when barges need to carry wheat, soybeans and corn from throughout the Midwest down to the Gulf Coast for export.

“We are looking at a very large grain crop. That has got people on pins and needles,” said Jerry Fruin, a retired economics professor from the University of Minnesota.


Ex-cop charged with homicide says death accidental

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) - A former Wisconsin police officer killed a 19-year-old college student from Oregon during a choking game that went too far, hid her body in a suitcase she brought to their sex date and then kept her body in his refrigerator for months, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

Steven Zelich, 52, of West Allis, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide - the Wisconsin equivalent of murder - in the 2012 death of Jenny Gamez from Cottage Grove, Oregon. Zelich also is a suspect in the death of a Farmington, Minnesota, woman.

The women’s bodies were found in June in suitcases left along a rural highway about an hour southwest of Milwaukee. According to court records and testimony, Zelich told investigators that he met the women online, killed them accidentally during dates for sex and hid their bodies until they began to smell. Then he dumped them on the roadside, where they were found by highway workers mowing grass.

Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf said he chose to charge Zelich with the most severe crime possible because he didn’t believe the deaths were accidents.

“Killing two women over the span of 15 months under the circumstances in which the defendant acknowledged, by gagging them with a ball gag in the mouth, ropes around the neck, hands tied behind their back, blindfold over their face. He may call that accidental. I call it murder,” Zapf said.


5 candidates for governor try to woo farmers

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. (AP) - Five Minnesota candidates for governor gathered Tuesday at the annual FarmFest trade show, where they promised to help farmers by promoting agriculture and working to ease environmental regulations.

The candidates included the four Republicans who will square off in a primary next week: Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and business executive Scott Honour. Also participating was Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet.

The candidates criticized DFL Gov. Mark Dayton for not showing up, saying attendees deserved to see their governor.

“This is one of the biggest and best agricultural outlets in the state and this forum,” Zellers said. “He should be here with you today.”

Seifert played up his rural roots, referring several times to the farm where he grew up just a few miles from the festival grounds, the Marshall Independent reported.


$1 million bond in synthetic drug deaths

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - A Mankato man accused of providing the synthetic drugs that killed two people is being held on $1 million bail.

Tyler Caputo was arrested in suburban Chicago last week after leaving Minnesota without the court’s permission. The 21-year-old man is facing third-degree murder charges in the deaths of 17-year-old Chloe Moses and 22-year-old Louis Folson. They overdosed on a psychedelic drug in separate incidents in Mankato in March.

Caputo claims the drug changed hands several times before Moses and Folson received it.

Defense attorney Ryan Pacyga says he doesn’t think the case rises to the level of murder.

The Free Press ( ) says Caputo appeared in Blue Earth County District Court Monday.

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